That’s how long it has been since the Seattle Mariners participated in postseason baseball. That means a good portion of students here at Seattle University hadn’t yet attended kindergarten when the Mariners won a record 116 games back in 2001. If you’re one of those people too young to remember what it was like to have a playoff baseball team in Seattle, don’t worry about it. After 15 years, those of us old enough are having a hard time remembering it too.
After a 2015 season that brought high expectations from fans and analysts alike ended in yet another losing season, the Mariners have made a multitude of changes in both the front office as well as the dugout. There are quite a few new faces in 2016.
Gone is general manager Jack Zduriencik, after his five-year rebuilding plan turned into a seven-year sludge of taking one step forward and two steps back.
Enter new general manager Jerry Dipoto, the former general manager of the Los Angeles Angels. Dipoto was last seen on the wrong end of a power struggle feud with Angels manager Mike Scioscia that landed him on the unemployment line. After his falling out with Scioscia, it wasn’t difficult to predict that Dipoto would be inclined to bring in his own guy to manage the team. To the surprise of few, he fired Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon and hired Scott Servais as the new skipper.
As the assistant general manager in Los Angeles from 2011 to 2015, Servais worked very closely with Dipoto in the front office. But as for on-the-field managerial experience, Servais has none.
The core of the Mariner lineup returns this season and the success of the team will hinge on the production of Nelson Cruz, Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager. Cruz’s first year in Seattle was brilliant and Seager was steady batting behind him in the lineup. As for Cano, he had a terrible first half of the season and by the time he turned it on in the second half it was too late. The Mariners will need two solid halves (or, as some call it, a full season of production) from him in 2016.
Outside of those three, there are some new faces (Adam Lind, Nori Aoki, Leonys Martin) but the same question from last year remains: Can the supporting cast get on base and give the big three a shot to drive in runs?
After failing a physical with the Dodgers, Hisashi Iwakuma returns to the Mariners on a one-year deal and will resume his role as the number two starter in the pitching rotation. Wade Miley, who looks like someone you wouldn’t want to encounter in the wild, was brought in via trade from Boston and will slide into the number three spot in the rotation. Taijuan Walker has another year to hopefully capture the potential that scouts saw in him that made him one of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball as a teenager. But the rotation continues to be anchored by perennial all-star Felix Hernandez, who turns 30 this week.
Jerry Dipoto made a lot of moves in the offseason but no major splashes in trades or free agency. Were they simply lateral moves that mostly attempted to erase the fingerprint of the former general manger or will this new supporting cast help get King Felix his first taste of post-season baseball and end Seattle’s playoff drought? Forgive me if I’m cynical, but it’s been a long time. Fifteen years.
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